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The President has never been noticeably receptive to messages of that tone or type. It is even unclear whether he is all that keen on sending women out to work at all. Last April, at a luncheon with editors and broadcasters, he said that part of the reason for high unemployment "is not as much recession as it is the great increase in the people going into the job market, and ladies, I'm not picking on anyone, but [it is] because of the increase in women who are working today and two-worker families." Rosalind Barnett, a psychologist at Wellesley College's Center for Research on Women, has little patience with such an analysis. "Once you see work as crucial to both men's and women's sense of who they are," she says, "that kind of statement is abhorrent." Barnett and a colleague, Grace Baruch, completed a study demonstrating that, for women between the ages of 35 and 55, a paying job is the overriding factor that enhances a sense of worth.
Kinds of jobs, however, and ranges of salary remain a significant stumbling block—indeed, in some cases, a barrier. "Pay for full-time women clerical workers is extremely low," says Karen Nussbaum, executive director of 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women. "It averages just over $11,000 a year for women, as compared with male clericals, who earn over $17,000. We feel if we could just get equal pay within our job classification we would be doing well." To date, 9 to 5 has initiated legal action that won over $3 million in back pay for women in publishing and banking, in addition to major pay raises for female employees in banking, insurance and engineering, including a sizable $1.34 million settlement from Bechtel.
Nonetheless, equal pay lies beyond the grasp of many women workers. Pamela Yore, 28, earns just over $10,000 a year in a small Boston hospital. (Males performing similar or the same duties get more.) She has to take care of a five-year-old son and an ailing husband and would certainly be helped by more equitable pay. However, she says, "You learn not to make too many waves in the workplace.
If you do, there will be ten people there waiting for your job, and probably half of them have more education than you. You see women and men sitting side by side in the same office, doing the same job and making different salaries, and you have to tell yourself it is more a social attitude than a personal one directed at you.
But it is hard when you are not making as much as you could or should."
The situation is not a lot brighter on the management level. In 1980 the median salary for women managers and administrators was $12,936, vs. $23,558 for their male counterparts. A 1981 study by Wellesley researchers demonstrates that once she